Senior year was one of new beginnings — a year marked by the implementation of QuadEx, the first seasons of two head coaches and the lifting of COVID-19 protocols that defined much of the Class of 2023’s Duke experience.
Duke made national headlines this year. Following the Class of 2022’s graduation, The Chronicle reported that the student commencement speech closely resembled a 2014 Harvard student address. In late August, Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson reported that she was “racially heckled” during a game at Brigham Young University. The incident resulted in the banning, then unbanning of a fan after the school’s investigation did not find evidence of racial slurs directed at Richardson.
The University implemented the QuadEx residential program in the fall of 2022, which saw the introduction of Faculty Fellows and the creation of Quad Arches. The Class of 2026 was the first to experience Experiential Orientation, another QuadEx program, which marked an overhaul in orientation programming that cost $1 million more than the traditional Orientation Week experience. The Chronicle spoke with alumni who advocated for housing reform and examined the differences between QuadEx and other peer institutions’ residential systems.
At the same time, students — the Class of 2026 and upperclassmen alike — had mixed reactions to the new housing system. Under QuadEx’s “all-gender housing model,” the Baldwin Scholars lost their female-only section. The future of selective living groups on campus remains uncertain. Some chapters of Duke-affiliated Greek life are still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while adjusting to QuadEx, and non-Greek SLGs received conflicting messages from the administration regarding recruitment.
The University slowly removed COVID-19 protocols that had become a part of campus life. By late September, masks in classrooms were no longer required. By March, masks on buses were no longer required. In April, Duke ended its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for most students, faculty and staff.
As a monumental midterm election season came and went, The Chronicle spoke with candidates, voters, and journalists before, during and after Election Day. After all the votes were tallied, the Republican Party fell just one seat in the North Carolina Senate short of a supermajority in both General Assembly chambers. In April, North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham changed her party affiliation, shifting the supermajority in the Republican Party’s favor.
In December, Duke accepted 800 Early Decision applicants, making the 16.5% acceptance rate the lowest in Duke’s history. Duke admitted 4.8% of its Regular Decision applicants in March.
Senior year saw a new dawn for football culture. Under the leadership of new head coach Mike Elko, the ACC Coach of the Year, the Blue Devils ended the regular season 8-4 and defied expectations to become Military Bowl Champions.
In December, line monitors announced a pilot program providing financial aid through tenting supplies. Cameron Indoor Stadium was packed once again, the Blue Devils went undefeated at home and Duke completed a sweep of North Carolina after losing to the Tar Heels in the Final Four last year. And despite early road struggles and a controversial no-call against Virginia, the Blue Devils rallied to win the ACC tournament before losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Women’s basketball enjoyed a special season of its own, falling just short of the ACC regular-season title and earning a No. 3-seed for the NCAA tournament. Men’s lacrosse won the 2023 ACC title after defeating Syracuse in the Blue Devils’ conference finale. Men’s tennis is in the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 after achieving its best-ever ACC record.
Duke Athletics wasn’t the only part of Duke that experienced a changing of the guard. Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, was named the next dean of Trinity College. Provost Sally Kornbluth was named the next president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will be replaced by Alec Gallimore. Suzanne Barbour joined the Graduate School as its new dean in September.
Duke also saw several losses. Peter Nicholas, the Nicholas School of the Environment’s namesake, passed in June. John Burness, former senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, passed in December. Samar Zora, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the cultural anthropology department, passed away in February. Basketball and baseball legend Dick Groat passed in April. Beloved campus pets Nugget and Peaches died over the summer.
As the Bryan Center prepares for renovations that could cost up to $110 million, cultural and identity groups are asking for more equitable space allocations for their organizations. As student groups shared their grievances and sought solutions, the Center for Multicultural Affairs celebrated its 50th anniversary and held its first multicultural graduation.
Campus labor unions saw major developments this year. In August, the Duke University Press Workers Union officially won its union. The Duke Graduate Students Union filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board in March after launching a campaign for formal recognition in September. In response, the University is challenging a 2016 NLRB decision affirming the legal right for graduate students to unionize.
This was a big year for climate activism on campus. Duke announced its Climate Commitment, which aims to increase the role of the University in tackling the climate crisis. The Undergraduate Environmental Union — a subcommittee within Duke Student Government — voiced that they believed the Climate Commitment does not go far enough and called for more student input.
At the same time, several Duke centers and affiliates have struggled. Duke Student Affairs saw a series of staffing shortages, hampering student group funding and planning for cultural events. The Center for Documentary Studies, a nonprofit affiliate of Duke, has undergone a programmatic overhaul over the past year. A year after the establishment of the Center for Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention, the Center still lacks a permanent director.
On the academic side, Duke’s Asian American Diaspora Studies minor saw its first year, while the School of Medicine and the School of Law announced that they would withdraw from US News and World Report’s rankings in January. The Curriculum Development Committee also began thinking about what Trinity College’s new curriculum will look like.
Undergraduates chose junior Isaiah Hamilton to be the next DSG president, while senior Sydney Hunt was chosen as the next Undergraduate Young Trustee nominee. Seniors Shreyas Hallur and Qi Xuan Khoo were named Rhodes Scholars.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.